As we’ve sometimes done before in this series, I’m covering two nights instead of one here
because of the high volume of returned shows already discussed in previous
pieces. But it’s still always fun to start a new year in my journey through the
1970s, and to see if there are any more series that need to be added to the
“missed’ list. After a quick scan of the schedules, I like my chances.
The New Perry Mason
Only Mannix remains from last year’s Sunday schedule, as CBS tries two
new shows to cut into NBC’s ratings dominance.
The New Perry Mason was a show that began with, as Ricky Ricardo might
say, a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. The original Perry Mason series starring Raymond Burr was a prime time fixture
from 1957 to 1966, and is still the definitive television courtroom drama. To
re-introduce the concept and characters with an all-new cast just six years
later seems like a shallow attempt to capitalize on the success of its
predecessor, which was still playing in reruns in most markets.
This same strategy blossomed about 20 years ago, when there was a glut of films based on
old TV shows, that used the same titles and characters, but had little if
anything in common with the shows that audiences still loved. Sgt. Bilko (1996), Leave It To Beaver (1997), The
Avengers (1998), The Wild, Wild West
(1999), Bewitched (2005) and so many
others deservedly bombed.
And so did The New Perry Mason, which was canceled
after 15 episodes. But here’s the thing – the show was actually pretty good,
and I think its odds of success would have risen if it wasn’t trying to
convince viewers that Monte Markham was now Perry Mason, assisted by Sharon
Acker as Della Street and Albert Stratton as Paul Drake.
Markham was an
always-welcome guest presence on dozens of classic shows, from Hogan’s Heroes to The Mary Tyler Moore Show to Eight
is Enough. This would be his best shot at steady work for 15 years, until
he wound up on Baywatch of all
places. My guess is most of that show’s male viewers never noticed him.
I bought into his passion and integrity instantly as a crusading
attorney – but Burr cast such a huge shadow, literally and figuratively, that I
could not buy him as Perry Mason. And it wasn’t that viewers tired of the character
– Burr returned to the role for a series of popular TV movies that aired until
1993, the year Burr passed away.
Unlike The New Perry Mason, Barnaby
Jones found a receptive audience right away, and would run until 1980. What
an impressive second act for Buddy Ebsen after so many years playing Jed
Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.
The ABC Sunday Night Movie
This is the same ABC lineup
as last year’s, though we’ll have some new entries to get to in 1974. This was
the final full season for The FBI
after an impressive run that began back in 1965.
The Wonderful World of Disney
The NBC Sunday Night Mystery Movie
lineup, except without Nigh Gallery
as a nightcap following the rotating Mystery
Movie presentations. The selections here also remain unchanged: Columbo, McCloud, McMillan and Wife,
and Hec Ramsey.
Monday Night Football
Just as they did on Sunday
nights, ABC stands pat with a successful Monday lineup. That’s what I was
watching, if only to hear Dandy Don Meredith sing “Turn out the lights, the
party’s over” as soon as the Packers scored yet another second-half touchdown
against my beloved Chicago Bears
The New Dick Van Dyke Show
once again gets Mondays on CBS off to a strong start, as it has since 1967.
This was the final year for both Here’s
Lucy and The New Dick Van Dyke Show
– and how many hours of television since then could claim to feature two of the
medium’s most iconic stars? I think this was about the time that my nine
year-old self switched from having a crush on Tina Cole on My Three Sons to Lucie Arnaz. Farrah was
still three years away.
Medical Center still had a few good years left, which is more than you can say for
some of its patients.
The NBC Monday Night Movie
NBC struck out with both of
its new sitcoms this year, though both certainly looked good on paper. Lotsa Luck was created by Carl Reiner,
Bill Persky and Sam Denoff, three of the best writers for The Dick Van Dyke Show, which Reiner also created. Persky and
Denoff also created That Girl.
There was an All in the Family vibe about the series,
about a multi-generational working class family in New York. Stanley
worked the lost and found counter at a bus company. He lived with his
domineering mother, his sister Olive, and her unemployed husband Arthur.
I was amazed when I
reviewed the posts on IMDB and YouTube about this series, most of which were
rave reviews. I thought it was awful, even with its laugh track dialed up to 11
for punch-less punch lines. Hiring Dom DeLuise as Stanley strikes me as one of
the worst examples of miscasting in the history of television. He was a born
second banana, best utilized in over-the-top characters opposite Dean Martin on
the singer’s variety series, or flamboyant nuts in movies with Mel Brooks or
Burt Reynolds. But as an ordinary Joe beaten down by life? It doesn’t work at
If you’re still curious, go
to YouTube and select the episode “Bummy’s Girl,” as it features Suzanne
Somers, who doesn’t play the material at the same exaggerated volume as
everyone else, and is easily the best thing in the show.
didn’t make it either, but that had no impact on my love for Diana Rigg. She is
in that very, very rare class of performers who can take an ordinary line of
dialogue and make it compelling by sheer force of personal magnetism.
Following her transcendent
work in The Avengers (the one without Iron Man) Rigg signed up to star
in this American sitcom (for the paycheck, she later admitted), as a British
divorcee who moves to New York to start a new life and a new career as a
fashion coordinator at Butley’s Department Store.
seen one episode, and based on that experience I’m not surprised by its
cancelation. It wasn’t as terrible
at Lotsa Luck but it was terribly
conventional and, well, a little boring. A quality I would never associate with
its leading lady.
The Don Knotts Show (1970)
San Francisco International Airport (1970)
The Headmaster (1970)
The Man and the City (1971)
The Chicago Teddy Bears (1971)
Assignment: Vienna (1972)
The Delphi Bureau (1972)
The Little People (1972)
The Sixth Sense (1972)
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